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Visions for Vacancies: Peachtree-Pine Homeless Shelter

No, despite the desire of many, the shelter is not vacant yet. But if it does become so, what would you like to see replace it?

Welcome to another edition of "Visions for Vacancies," where we visit a local vacant commercial building and ask you what you'd like to see go in that space.

Today, we’re at very familiar site to Midtown residents and that’s the homeless shelter building at the corner of Peachtree and Pine streets. Of course to the dismay of many frustrated Midtown residents, this building isn’t vacant and has been housing hundreds of homeless men for last 15 or so years.

That’s when Coca-Cola heiress Ednabelle Wardlaw purchased the 100,000-square-foot former auto parts warehouse and donated it to the Atlanta Task Force for the Homeless. Over the last decade and a half, the shelter has generated a number of problems for Midtown and surrounding neighborhoods. At all hours, drug activity can seen in the across-the-street parking lot and Atlanta Police Department officials have confirmed that a certain amount of criminal activity that occurs in Midtown originates from those staying at and around the shelter.

Over the years, surrounding businesses have reported that staff and patrons have been accosted by men lingering around the shelter. When Patch went to photograph the shelter recently, several men in the parking lot verbally assaulted the photographer. The general consensus from Midtowners is that the shelter been a blight on the neighborhood, bringing crime to the local area and damaging property values.

The Task Force piled up hundreds of thousands of dollars in unpaid utility bills over the years and two years ago, the nonprofit Ichthus Community Trust bought two outstanding liens on the building and then foreclosed on it. Ever since, the Task Force has been fighting eviction through a series of lawsuits.

In early February, it looked as if the Task Force had run out of options as Fulton County Superior Court Judge Craig Schwall ordered the Task Force to leave the shelter and turn it over the United Way of Metropolitan Atlanta, which would take six months to find housing for the men who stay there.

But on the day the shelter was to be turned over the United Way – Feb. 15, 2012 - that decision was blocked by the Georgia Court of Appeals, which granted the stay until "it decides on the issues involving whether the Task Force can make a direct appeal to the Court." That decision process is still on going.

And so while it does, Patch asks this:

Do you think this building should remain a homeless shelter? Why or why not? And if no, what should replace it?

Don’t concern yourself with things such as setback regulations and other zoning issues the city has to deal with. We want to know that if it were up to you, what would you like to see there? What would be the best use for the community in this space right now?

About this column: In highlighting vacant buildings in Midtown, we aim to help residents take a proactive role in planning and building their community. We'll take your feedback to public officials and property owners, to inform their decisions about future uses. Know of a vacant building we should highlight? Email hunt.archbold@patch.com.

anon April 19, 2012 at 08:22 PM
A couple other issues around that same location: the sidewalks need to be widened and some kind of traffic control needs to be added in front of the hospital.
Paul April 20, 2012 at 11:40 AM
When were these pictures taken? I live a block from the shelter and ive never seen it thia empty looking! I could see Emory potentially expanding into the lot with medical facilities. Transforming them into cool lofts would be nice, with street level retail.
Laura April 20, 2012 at 02:32 PM
I'd just like to point out that, while I'm sure the shelter creates its problems, homelessness is a HUGE issue in Atlanta, and "finding housing" for the hundreds of men who stay at the shelter is no small task, so we shouldn't be flippant about the idea of closing it.
Marc Acampora April 20, 2012 at 03:01 PM
Laura, I don't think anyone is flippant about closing it, but I know many are adamant about closing it. The shelter makes a small dent in the Atlanta homeless problem, but at a high price for this neighborhood. Destroying property values, increasing crime, and, bluntly, creating a disgusting and dangerous eyesore, is a disproportionate burden to bear for just one neighborhood. It seems to me that a better solution would be more but smaller, lower-impact facilities spread through the city. This would geographically disperse the concentration, make shelters available at more locations, but, at the same time, keep them small so as to not have such a pronounced impact on one area. I'm not saying its an easy solution, but I believe it is a better solution.
Angel76 April 20, 2012 at 03:55 PM
I really wish you guys would get your facts straight. The Metro Atlanta Taskforce DOES NOT allow anyone who stay there to even associate with anyone who is located across the street at the vacent lot. No one who is permitted to stay is allowed across the street at all and if they are view over there; they are not premitted to come back to stay or receive services. The people in the vacent lot are not even associated with Taskforce. I volunteer there which is what ALL of the people who complain about this place that is the ONLY place that actually HELP homeless people (without the judgemental attitude), should do. Before you so called "good people" dismiss this place as un-needed and void of decent people...maybe you should take some time to help out and re-build it or better yet...just shut up. Don't complain about it if you not willing to make things better. Or are you just concerned with your little "neighborhood"? #wow
Kyle April 20, 2012 at 04:50 PM
This probably should have been an actual article with quotes and interviews instead of a 'visions for vacancies' article about a shelter that isn't even vacant which presumes to know what the majority of Midtowners think of the shelter. Its residents and the people outside are still people and everyone would benefit if these "many frustrated Midtown residents" were a little more concerned about homelessness and the community as a whole and a little less worried about aesthetics and their precious property values (which judging from Midtown rent costs aren't suffering too much).
midtownblue April 20, 2012 at 04:51 PM
If there is no neighborhood, then there are no neighbors to take care of those in need. The concern is that the shelter actually keeps away the development and housing (neighbors) who are necessary to maintain a functioning society. It's not "either/or" -- it's "both."
Angel76 April 20, 2012 at 06:04 PM
My point exactly Kyle. What people don't realize is that Taskforce not only help shelter the homeless; they also help those who have been laid-off or who are about to be evicted due to economic hardships. They have REPEATEDLY asked the ADP and the city to do something about that vacant lot. However, as you know, nothing is being done because unless the city can regulate (control) the organization they will not assist. They make you (the neighborhood) think they are really trying to help but they are not. You tell me why other organizations are funded and Taskforce is not, while most of the employees are volunteering their services and actually doing the work I've been homeless. I know what it feels like to need assistance and have nowhere to turn. And the organizations that are out there to assist you, assume that you are unintelligent and treat you as if you are just a case number. It's all about funding, people.....not about helping others. Before anyone passes judgement...know what you are talking about. That's all I am saying.
Clicker April 20, 2012 at 06:44 PM
Where do you live Angel? Do you live within a 6 block radius of the shelter that you volunteer at? If not, then let's see how you feel after a 1000 bed homeless facility is opened in your neighborhood. I lived in the neighborhood before the place was a shelter and after. That shelter, it's occupants and the crowd that gathers around it have ruined that neighborhood. If you think that's OK, then you are part of the problem.
Clicker April 20, 2012 at 06:50 PM
And you live where Kyle? Do you own a home? Would you mind if a 1000 bed homeless shelter and its attendant problems opened in your neighborhood? Obviously you could care less about other peoples investments; I'll bet you care about yours though. Talk about flippant.
Angel76 April 20, 2012 at 08:06 PM
Clicker....yes I do. Which is why I'd rather do something constructive like helping to make it a better place. Like you said, you have lived in the neighborhood forever, right? What are you doing or have done to make it better? Why complain if you just going to sit back and let it happen. This vacant lot (from my understanding) didn't just spring up, did it? You, like most of the closed-minded individuals sit by and don't actually assist in improvements...i.e, help fix the building up, volunteer your services to help...yet, you want it cleaned up and all the homeless shipped somewhere else because "it's not YOUR problem" right? Well news flash, everyday people just like you are losing their homeless too. If it ever hsppens to any of you, I pray God had mercy on your situation.
Kyle April 20, 2012 at 08:36 PM
Maybe Hunt's article should have been about the vacant parking lot across the street from the Peachtree-Pine shelter instead ...
Chris Murphy April 21, 2012 at 01:58 AM
Or maybe it should have been about the Beatty's multi-million dollar retirement fund. Or the unpaid water bill, or unpaid rent, or all the other things that don't get paid while the Beattys do. Poverty pimps.
Roo April 25, 2012 at 05:12 PM
Volunteering to clean up that vacant lot would work for ONE DAY! The next day, all those loiters who camp out there would be right back throwing their trash down and just hanging around like they always do. Here's a suggestion...if THEY want to keep hanging out there, why don't THEY clean it up! If "they" want respect and not to be treated like animals, ACT LIKE YOU'RE NOT AN ANIMAL! Plus, the only reason they hang out there IS b/c of the shelter. It needs to GO! And YES, I live ONE BLOCK AWAY and I'm SICK OF IT!!
Meghan April 25, 2012 at 07:50 PM
read the article again, regardless of the matter at hand, what would YOU like to see the space turned into, if anything else?
Meghan April 25, 2012 at 07:52 PM
Peachtree and Pine is the last place I'd turn for help if I was homeless. Not unless I wanted a case of TB, pneumonia, or any other scary disease.
Meghan April 25, 2012 at 07:58 PM
Peachtree and Pine has been a burden to the community for too long. While its intent began with integrity, it is evident that no longer takes precedence. I've met several people who have come from there begging for help, begging to be removed from the filth and crime that is stored within. I've heard a story where a man was hours away from death because of a disease he caught whilst living in Peachtree and Pine. I've heard things that have brought my to tears. I do not think that Peachtree and Pine is run by the right leadership anymore and I think that is a large part of the problem. For years now, their model has NOT worked and until a spotlight was shined on them for unpaid bills, they had not tried to help end homelessness, but instead, prolong it. It wasn't until they started received public scrutiny that they started to even think about best practices when it comes to homelessness. It should not take a public verbal beating for a large homeless shelter to realize that the ways in which it conducts its shelter are wrong and corrupt. I don't necessarily believe that the space should be torn down and replaced with retail or higher end housing, but I do believe that Peachtree and Pine should cease to exist as it functions now. Obviously it's not working and something has got to happen.
Ikeahacker June 06, 2012 at 09:03 PM
Angel respresents the disconnect between the shelter and the surrounding community. If you do not want the input from the folks that live in the neighborhood just say it ....YOU DONT CARE WHAT THIS SHELTER DOES to the community just what it does for the homeless. This is an irresponsible attitude to have. You guys do not play well with others...It needs to go. Please return the community back to those that live, pay fulton county taxes and work in the community.
Van Gogh June 06, 2012 at 09:24 PM
Does anyone know who put up the new locked fence around the vacant parking lot? It looks like they've kicked them out. Now people are moving back to the other parking lot at the corner.
Alexa June 07, 2012 at 12:22 PM
SunTrust (who owns the lot) has put up the fence. http://midtown.patch.com/articles/peachtree-pine-vacant-lot-gated-shut?ncid=newsltuspatc00000001
Jay June 12, 2012 at 11:06 AM
Homelessness isnt going to dissapear. The city must find a place to put ALL the homeless where they live and be,,,helped? (for those who show they want it) and for those who don't? IDK
Jim D June 19, 2012 at 04:05 AM
Realize that this is not how this posting was intended but I felt the need to share my experience with the shelter. I've lived a block away for 5+ years. When I first moved to the area I thought it would be a great opportunity to enjoy the nearby parks, good location, and maybe volunteer some time to help others in need. My experience with the local homeless quickly changed to very negative. I've come home to homeless people washing their clothes in my carport, having sex in my yard, shooting needles in their arms 30 feet away, and throwing trash on the streets and leaving food wrappers everywhere while walking by me. I've asked them to be respectful and have been yelled at and asked for money in return. I just want to come home to enjoy the beautiful park and walk around the block without feeling trapped or afraid that my wife will be harassed (yes this did happen on one occassion). Not all people are bad by any means, but the lack of accoutability and lot of irresponsible individuals who live on the streets and shelter break my heart and at times anger myself and the community at their inappropriate actions and behavior.
bman July 15, 2012 at 05:55 PM
The post was intended to fantasize about what would replace the huge vacant building at peachtree and pine street. the fantasy escalated with the fantasy that the building at peachtree and pine street is vacant. it is not vacant. nice work!
john batchelor July 23, 2012 at 06:02 PM
i was told the bldg may or may not be razed/torn down and eateries, various shops, and upscale establishments would replace the dilapidated old bldg and maybe the lots nearby. i stay nearby and i have not had a problem with the homeless other than them asking me for money.
Mark Murray January 16, 2013 at 10:28 PM
It's a dump and keeps people from wanting to be any place near that part of town because of the "characters" that attempt to get over on you in one way or another! They need to drop it! Even a dog park were they poop would be more welcome! No body wants to be downtown because of the pan handling and the crime! Get rid of the trash then perhaps there can be some hope for a rejuvenation of the area! Not until then!
april strozier February 23, 2013 at 10:35 PM
I need to go down there today and give them some food and clothes. Me and my mom when she was alive always gave food to the homeless and in memory of her I need to do that.
August Jones April 08, 2013 at 03:31 PM
What did you expect when they turned the warehousing of the homeless into a MULTI-BILLION DOLLAR A YEAR INDUSTRY..... These POVERTY PIMPS keep the homeless....HOMELESS!
August Jones April 08, 2013 at 03:36 PM
My wife & I hired 4 homeless veterans, directly off the street, NOTHING WRONG WITH ANY OF THEM; they are all still working with us housed, and earning living-wages. ABSOLUTELY NOTHING WRONG WITH THEM...they just needed a chance. The VA & their POVERTY PIMPS labeled all 4 homeless veterans we hired as "CRAZY, ADDICTED, and ALCOHOLICS who were "TREATMENT RESISTANT" and who will never work again.....THEY LIED... ABSOLUTELY NOTHING WAS WRONG WITH THEM!

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